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Dear Brentwood families,

As you know, PTAs’ primary role is advocating for children. And part of that advocacy is educating the community on how our schools are funded. Did you know that public education in the United States relies primarily on state and local resources? Only a very small fraction of school budgets come from the federal government. Thus, there are questions about whether this system is living up to the ideal of providing a sound education equitably to all children in the U.S. at all times. 

One problem is that school funding differs widely from one state to the next.

For instance, New York has the highest per-pupil spending of all of the 50 states, currently spending $24,040 per student, approximately 90% above the national average. Other states with the highest per-pupil spending include the District of Columbia ($22,759), Connecticut ($20,635), New Jersey ($20,021), and Vermont ($19,400). On the other end of the spectrum, Arizona, Idaho, Texas, and Utah provide only slightly above $10,000 per pupil from the same funding streams. In most states, school funding lagged behind broader economic growth. Even the best-performing states need major improvement. 

Could the federal government play a bigger role in leveling this funding system?

A wide body of research shows students from low-income families need even more resources to achieve the very same academic outcomes as their high-income peers, according to Education Weekly. A July 2022 report from the Economic Policy Institute states that the current system for funding public schools shortchanges students, especially low-income students. Per the report, education funding in general relies too heavily on state and local resources (particularly property tax revenues). An overhaul of the system that ensures a larger role for the federal government is necessary. Given the fact that public education is a public good, one that helps to stabilize the entire economy at critical points, public spending on education should be treated as the public investment that it is.

These problems are magnified during and after recessions.

Funding inadequacies and inequities tend to be aggravated when there is an economic downturn, which typically translates into problems that persist well after recovery is underway. Without increased federal spending after recessions, school districts would suffer from an even greater decline in funding and even wider gaps between funding flowing to low-poverty and high-poverty districts. While Congress has enacted one-time education spending increases in difficult economic times, spending on public education should be considered one of the automatic stabilizers in our economic policy toolkit, designed to automatically increase when private spending falls.

Ultimately, education spending is a political matter. Closing funding gaps will require both state and local policymakers, as well as the federal government, to make the commitments necessary to lift up students. These will be important considerations in this coming election year and as Texas begins its next legislative session, in January 2025.

What next? Join us at the next General Body Meeting Thursday April 11 at 6 pm.

Our speaker will be Dr. Paul Cruz, former AISD superintendent and current professor in the department of Educational Leadership and Policy at UT. Dr. Cruz will discuss some of the challenges involved with equity in education and how we, as parents, can advocate for students at all public schools, not just our own. We will meet in the Community Room and will be serving dinner, so please join us! (To help us plan accordingly, please fill out this form.) Childcare will be available during this meeting, thanks to the McCallum Key Club.

Also consider attending the upcoming Texas Tribune discussion, “How new laws are affecting public education” at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 16, at the Tribune's Studio 919, or online.

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